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The crucial details of parental leave policies

Written by: Jillian Climie.

In 2022, we conducted a survey of parental leave policies across Canada, which included respondents from 9 different provinces and 30 different cities. We asked detailed questions on topics such as policy design, payouts, eligibility requirements and more, as we found these details are often not talked about. We’re happy to report that 77% of respondents’ employers have parental leave policies beyond the parental leave coverage that is provided by the government. However, the policies in practice vary significantly and demonstrate that gaps still exist. We’ve highlighted some of our key takeaways below, and if you’d like to read the full report, you can purchase it here.

Note: this article will be most relevant to our Canadian readers, but will still provide important context for readers in other countries.

68% of parental leave policies include non-birth parents, 59% include parents of newly adopted children and 43% include parents of surrogate children. These numbers were lower than expected. When a parental leave policy does not include the non-birth parent, it disproportionately puts the burden on women to take the parental leave, and therefore leave the workforce for greater periods of time. This in turn can exacerbate the gender pay gap; studies have shown that “the motherhood penalty” may make up 80% of the gender pay gap. Additionally, even for those respondents who noted that their employer does include different types of parents beyond the birth parent, 53% outlined that the monetary value received is higher for the birth mother. This again incentivizes the birth mother to take the longer leave.

Moreover, not having parents of newly adopted children or surrogate children included in these policies means many families are excluded from financial support. This creates inequity for families who either cannot, or chose not to, birth their own children.

54% of policies are for full-time employees only (not part-time employees). In 2023, part-time employees made up 18% of the Canadian workforce, and 24% of working women in Canada. This means a material amount of our population does not have access to a parental leave policy beyond coverage provided by the government, especially those in temporary or part-time positions who might need the financial support most.

38% of participants receive 6 months or less of parental leave coverage from their employers. These numbers were less surprising to us, and show progress from where we were, but also that there is still room to grow. Providing new parents with paid time off contributes to higher financial security for the family, better maternal health, and improved employer retention. Extending the coverage period can enhance these benefits, and builds a culture of support and understanding for parents. Additionally, with the high costs of childcare, in some cases it can be more financially viable for the family to have one parent leave the workforce than pay for care. This exacerbates the existing challenges of retaining women in the workforce as women are still the predominant caregivers in Canada.

84% of respondents do not receive support for adoption or fertility costs. In Canada, roughly 1 in 6 couples experience infertility, and this number has doubled since the 1980's. In vitro fertilization (IVF), adoption and other methods can be expensive and time-consuming, and therefore inaccessible for many families. It is important to encourage the implementation of financial coverage that supports all types of families, especially as IVF, adoption and other methods become more common.

Over 75% of respondents reported no at-work facilities available. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have become fully remote, which reduced the need for at-work facilities. However, for those who are still partly or fully in office, providing services like pump/lactation rooms and on-site daycare can reduce the barriers birth mothers face when coming into work. This is especially important for employers where remote work is optional, but still have a culture that values face time.


If you would like support with understanding, negotiating or designing your parental leave program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at And for more details on survey respondents, parental leave design, comparison between industries and company size, and much more, purchase our report here.


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